2019 Northern Trust Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets at Liberty National
Steve Flynn, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Sungjae Im
The race for the FedEx Cup begins in earnest this weekend with the 2019 Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey.
This weekend features one of the deepest fields of the season with Brooks Koepka (10-1) leading the way, ahead of Rory McIlroy (12-1), Dustin Johnson (16-1), Jon Rahm (16-1) and Justin Thomas (18-1).
As is usually the case with high-profile events, there are plenty of betting opportunities for the 2019 Northern Trust. Here are our staff’s favorite plays for the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs:
The bet: Patrick Cantlay over Rickie Fowler (-116)
Cantlay has been far more consistent than Fowler this season. Since the Masters where they both tied for ninth, Cantlay finished ahead of Fowler in three of the four tournaments in which they both competed. The lone exception was the Open Championship and Fowler has much more experience in Europe.
We’re back in the States, though, and Fowler hasn’t finished ahead of Cantlay in any event over here since the Players in March.
Right now, Cantlay has just been better than Fowler with his ball striking and on a course where the irons and driver need to be completed dialed in, I’ll lean toward the guy hitting the ball better.
I picked Cantlay to win the event so I have no problem backing him in what is nearly a coin flip matchup against Fowler.
The bet: Sungjae Im Top-20 Finish (+280)
As I tweeted this past weekend, when Im was in the midst of yet another title contention, he is 21 years old – a bit older than Matthew Wolff, but younger than Collin Morikawa.
I understand why we’ll continue to group the Young 3 (Wolff, Morikawa and Viktor Hovland) together, since they turned pro at the same time, but we should firmly include Im within this group moving forward.
He still has a leg up in the Rookie of the Year race, having competed a couple dozen more times than these other young guys; knowing that fellow PGA Tour players vote for this award, I trust they’ll recognize consistency over victory.
Now back to this bet: In 25 starts during this calendar year, Im owns 10 top-20 finishes (and a pair of T-21s, too). That’s a 40% clip, yet his odds offer an implied probability of 26.3%.
That tells us there’s a ton of value in making this wager, which could pay off at nearly 3-1 just days after he coasted to a T-6 result. Count me in.
Dr. Lou Riccio*
The bet: Tony Finau Top-10 Finish (+470)
Tony Finau has been plagued by some inconsistency of late: As evidenced by the 3M Open, where he opened with a hot round before fading to a 23rd place finish.
His strokes gained numbers are there: He gained a whopping 13.2 strokes off the tee at the Open and 4.3 strokes/tee-to-green in his last start at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude. If Finau can fix those consistency issues, his length and approach strengths are too good for him not to contend—making nearly 5-to-1 odds for a top-10 finish very enticing.
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA’s handicap research team for three decades. More of his predictive analysis can be found over at Golf Digest.
The bet: Patrick Reed (-130) over Shane Lowry
This seems like a prime letdown spot for Lowry, who has been playing incredibly well of late and is coming off his win at The Open Championship.
However, I think this course is more suited for Reed, especially when looking at their long-term form (Reed listed first):
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: 68.8 vs. 69.2
- Greens in Regulation: 65.3% vs. 67.5%
- Scrambling rate: 60.6% vs. 52.8%
- Adjusted strokes on par 4s: -0.7 vs. +0.9
- Adjusted strokes on par 5s: -4.5 vs. -3.7
Reed has been superior to Lowry in four of the five categories I’m looking at. Most importantly, Reed’s Adjusted Round Score is 0.4 strokes better than Lowry. And while Lowry has hit GIR at a slightly higher clip compared to Reed over the long run, Reed’s irons have been trending upward as he’s hit 72.2% of GIR over the last six weeks, and he’s gained strokes on approach in eight of his last 10 tournaments.
Reed gained strokes on approach in six-straight tournaments before losing 2.4 strokes on approach last week at the Wyndham Championship.
Furthermore, I’m giving some weight to scrambling and short game here as Adam Scott said the greens at Liberty National are trickier than they look, and Reed’s short game and putting is world-class.